LeBrun: Nonis Staying in Nashville to Scout Possible Franson Trade

As the Leafs losing streak hits hilarious proportions, the rumors have ramped up surrounding the team.  By all accounts, it sounds like the team will be selling off what they can at the trade deadline.  That speculation was heightened immensely yesterday when TSN reported on the likelihood of players like Daniel Winnik, Tyler Bozak, and Joffrey Lupul being moved.  Among that group of players of course was Cody Franson, a pending unrestricted free agent who Darren Dreger believes has an 85% chance of being moved by March 2nd.

Today, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun poured more gasoline on the fire when he reported in his Rumblings blog that GM Dave Nonis did not fly out with the rest of the team from Nashville Tuesday night.  Rather, Nonis will stick around to scout Thursday’s game.  As LeBrun points out, that’s likely to do some research on the possibility of a trade involving former Predator Cody Franson.

LeBrun also notes that another impending unrestricted free agent, Mike Santorelli, is generating lots of interest.  Among the teams keen to acquire Santorelli is his former team, the Vancouver Canucks.  This was also reported last night so it’s a bit of old news, but it’s worth nothing nonetheless.

So, back to Franson.

If the Predators interest in Franson is serious and Nonis is sticking around to scout the team a bit further, the obvious question becomes which players on Nashville is he scouting?

Given the state of the franchise, you’d have to assume it’s a younger player.  You’d also have to assume it’s a cheaper player given Toronto’s salary cap woes.  Likewise, you’d have to think it isn’t a core piece off of Nashville’s roster, who is looking to make a run at the Stanley Cup this spring.

So who does that leave?

THE FORWARDS

Craig Smith:

25 years of age, making $2 million, and an RFA at the end of the season.  Smith has 27 points in 50 games.  Smith is a possibility, but I think it’s unlikely given given he’s their 5th-highest scoring forward.  They probably wouldn’t want to give up a player of his caliber for someone who might walk at the end of the season.

Calle Jarnkrok:

acquired by the Predators at last year’s deadline as part of a trade that sent David Legwand to Detroit, Jarnkrok has just 13 points in 46 games this season.  He’s been more serviceable than spectacular.  He is supremely talented though, and the Leafs may be intrigued by his potential.  If the Leafs are going to ship out players like Winnik, Santorelli, and Lupul and/or Bozak, a young skilled forward like Jarnkrok might make sense.

Taylor Beck:

23 years old, 9 points in 35 games.  Projects as a 3rd or 4th-liner at this point.  Still, he could be serviceable.  Wouldn’t it be funny if the Leafs acquired him?  The top line of the Guelph Storm a few years back included Beck as well as current Leafs Peter Holland and Richard Panik.

Gabriel Bourque:

at 24 years of age, Bourque has just 7 points in 37 games this year.  He did have 26 in 74 last year though.  Small but skilled, Bourque is another guy who could one day end up as a good 3rd-liner or might be no more than a role player.

THE DEFENSEMEN

Ryan Ellis:

the former Canadian junior standout recently signed a five-year deal with a cap hit of just $2.5 million.  He’s been mostly a bottom-pairing guy since joining the Preds, but he has played a second-pairing role this season.  Still, Ellis is averaging under 20 minutes a game this year.  However, he’s only 24 and has a good skill-set.  I imagine Toronto would have interest, especially if they are losing Cody Franson.  But would Nashville want to trade him?  It’s not impossible, but probably unlikely.

Mattias Ekholm:

the 24-year-old Swede has settled in on the bottom pair for the Preds the last couple of seasons.  Ekholm is a good skater and plays a sound and steady game.  There might be a little bit more potential to be squeezed out of him.  Nashville might be willing to move him in a deal for Franson.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I think a straight-up player-for-player swap is pretty unlikely.  You rarely see those sorts of deals surrounding impending UFAs, especially this time of year.  Who knows, maybe we trade Franson straight for a guy like Smith, Ellis, Jarnkrok, or Ekholm.  We also don’t know how serious Nashville’s interest is and if they would want to include a player off their roster in a potential deal.  And of course, plenty of other teams will and do have interest in Franson.  More realistically, we are still looking at a trade centered around draft picks.  Which team those draft picks come from, and if the deal happen at all remain to be seen.  Buckle up, the next few weeks should be a lot of fun.